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Kasher in the Rye
Moshe Kasher

Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group
March, 2012 / ISBN 978-0-446-58426-5

Reviewed by Elaine Broome

Whew! What a ride! You know the feeling you get on a great roller coaster? You know... the exhilaration, the fear, the breathlessness? Well, that's what reliving Moshe Kasher's life is like in his memoir Kasher in the Rye. He lurches from school truancy to mischief, from beer swilling to full-blown drug addiction, and somehow to redemption. It's a thrill ride of a life.

The hearing son of deaf parents, Moshe is dragged from Brooklyn to Oakland by his mother to escape his abusive father, an increasingly religious Jew. Moshe and his mother Bea and brother David live a tenuous life in Oakland, trying to adjust to their new reality. From the time he could think, Moshe was convinced he was broken, that he was unfixable. He was angry - always angry - resenting his mother's embarrassing deafness and her efforts to push him down the right path. One of the few white students at his Oakland school, Moshe found his group of friends; boys like himself that wanted to create their own world. From the first time he ever tried marijuana, Moshe decided that he only wanted to feel the way being high made him feel. He was whole, he was invincible, and he was in control. But of course he wasn't. He bounced from school to school, from program to program, never finding what he was looking for, which was, of course, himself. This amazing memoir is not, however, only a tale of the evils of addiction. That's part of it, but there is so much more; so much humor and humanity shines through.

Regardless of what Moshe Kasher spent years being, what he is now is a wonderful writer. I stopped so many times to reread a sentence, a paragraph and marvel at the craftsmanship of his writing. He tells his story in a wide-eyed, realistic way with no attempt to glamorize or exaggerate his past. There's no need - it's such a powerful story on its own. Do yourself a favor. Climb onto this roller coaster. I'm betting that you'll be exhilarated and breathless too by the end.

Reviewer's Note: Prominent deaf characters
Reviewed 2012